Through a grant from the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF), Athens City Schools has implemented TAP™: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement system-wide; and is the first school system in Tennessee to implement the program in all of its schools.
TAP™: The System for Teacher and Student Advancement was introduced in 1999 by the Milken Family Foundation as a comprehensive, systemic school reform model designed to address the challenges facing K-12 education. TAP’s comprehensive, research-driven reform model is based on four interrelated elements: career advancement opportunities; continuous on-site professional development; a fair, transparent accountability system; and differentiated compensation for teachers based on their performance in the classroom and the performance of their students. TAP helps teachers become the best they can be by giving them opportunities to learn better teaching strategies and holding them accountable for their performance. Because of its broad-based support, proven results, and high demand, TAP is now operated by the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET), a 501(c)3 non-profit.
TAP provides teachers with:
For additional information about TAP and how it is being implemented in Athens City Schools, contact 423-745-2863.
1. Where is TAP being implemented?
TAP is implemented in a diverse set of urban, rural and suburban districts across the country, impacting approximately 20,000 teachers and 200,000 students.
For more information about TAP locations, go to TAP Projects and Partnerships.
2. How are schools selected to participate in TAP?
Generally, schools are invited by state departments of education or district superintendents to learn about the system and apply to become TAP schools. NIET reviews applications and selects schools based on their demonstrated ability to implement the system completely and effectively, ability to fund and sustain the system, as well as the level of faculty interest in participating in the system. Application to TAP is competitive, and teachers in the schools must vote to join the system.
3. What can my state or district do to join TAP or learn more about the system?
As a first step, we recommend that you visit Resources for Prospective TAP States and Districts. For more logistical information on how to join, visit our section on Adopting TAP.
Please feel free to contact us for further questions.
4. How much does TAP cost to implement? How is the system funded?
The cost of TAP varies, ranging from $250 to $400 per student each year, depending on the infrastructure and funding already in place.
NIET works with participating schools to better utilize existing funds to implement TAP. However, schools may need to seek out additional funding to support TAP. TAP schools are supported by a variety of funding sources, including private foundation grants, legislative appropriations, property tax levies, sales tax increases, general revenues from state budgets, district funds and federal dollars available through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF). The federal government has committed new resources for increasing teacher effectiveness. To learn more about how TAP connects to these opportunities, visit Resources for Federal Funding Opportunities.
For examples of how TAP schools are funding the system, visit Success Stories.
5. How are teachers selected for leadership roles?
Applicants go through a rigorous selection process that includes meeting basic qualifications and demonstrating expertise in learning and instruction, curriculum development, assessment and leadership. Applicants are also expected to have a record of demonstrated student achievement. A staffing committee of administrators (both internal and external) and teachers participates in the selection process and advises the principal, who makes the final selections from the pool of qualified candidates.
For more information about TAP's different leadership roles, visit TAP Elements of Success: Multiple Career Paths.
6. What are the responsibilities of mentor and master teachers? What are the differences between the two positions?
Master teachers function in a unique manner relative to the traditional teacher. Their primary role is, with the principal, to analyze student data and create and institute an academic achievement plan for the school. Master teachers lead cluster groups (i.e., a professional learning community) and provide demonstration lessons, coaching and team teaching to career teachers. They also spend, on average, two hours per day teaching students. Master teachers collaborate to identify research-based instructional strategies to share with career teachers during cluster group meetings. They are partners with the principal in evaluating other teachers. Master teachers may also partner with the principal in sharing some of the responsibility of interacting with parents.
Mentor teachers are actively involved in enhancing/supporting the teaching experience of career teachers. Through the leadership team, they participate in analyzing student data and creating the schools' academic achievement plan. With oversight and support from the master teacher, they lead cluster meetings, and as a result, mentor teachers also provide classroom-based follow-up and extensive feedback on the instructional practices of career teachers. Planning for instruction is in partnership with other mentor teachers and career teachers, with the input and guidance of the master teacher. Mentor teachers are required to engage in professional development activities that are both self- and team-directed.
7. What kind of professional development do TAP teachers receive?
TAP's ongoing applied professional growth enables teachers to become active agents in their own improvement. Each teacher meets weekly with peers in a professional learning community called a “cluster group." Master and mentor teachers within the school lead these cluster sessions, which focus on instructional strategies to meet student needs. Cluster group work helps teachers meet student learning needs by connecting research-based, data-driven best practices to daily classroom instruction.
TAP teachers are also supported in the classroom through regular follow-up activities including lesson demonstrations, modeling, team-teaching, observation and reflective feedback.
For more information, visit TAP Elements of Success: Ongoing Applied Professional Growth.
8. How does performance pay in TAP work? How are salaries determined?
In most TAP schools, the basic salary schedule remains in place. Salary augmentations are given to master and mentor teachers for their increased levels of responsibility and work. TAP recommends augmentations of $5,000 - $12,000 for mentor teachers and $10,000 - $20,000 for master teachers, depending on school and district budgets.
All TAP teachers are eligible for performance bonuses based upon their professional practices — as assessed by multiple, certified TAP evaluators — as well as their students' academic achievements and the school's overall academic progress during the school year. Unlike an across-the-board pay raise, this system rewards teachers for measurable improvements in their teaching skills and their students' achievement, as well as for additional roles and responsibilities.
Most TAP administrators are also eligible for performance pay. The most commonly used measures to determine additional pay are school-wide achievement gains and the quality of TAP implementation.
For more information, visit TAP Elements of Success: Performance-Based Compensation.
For more information about administrator compensation in TAP, visit Principals in a TAP School.
9. Many factors outside the classroom affect student learning. How does TAP provide teachers with equal opportunity to earn bonuses?
TAP is based on the premise that all children can learn, regardless of external factors and socioeconomic conditions. We believe, and research confirms, that teachers are the most important school-related factor that influences student achievement. Therefore, in TAP, a part of teacher performance pay is based on student performance.
We measure student performance based on the achievement gains (i.e., value-added) a student makes over time [i.e., during the school year] rather than a snapshot of his/her performance on a standardized test. This means that regardless of where their students start the year academically, teachers are evaluated and rewarded based upon how much their students improve, not by how high they score on standardized tests.
The use of student achievement gains is only one of several determinants of TAP teacher bonuses. Both the academic gains of the individual teacher's students and the academic gains of the entire student body are counted in the teacher's performance bonus. In addition to student academic outcomes, teachers' bonuses are also partially dependent on their classroom performance as measured by multiple classroom evaluations through the school year.
For more information on TAP's Performance-Based Compensation element, visit Performance-Based Compensation.
For more information on how student achievement gains are calculated in TAP schools, visit Understanding Value-Added Analysis of Student Achievement.
10. How are TAP teachers evaluated? How does TAP ensure that performance bonuses are paid out objectively and fairly?
TAP has developed a comprehensive system for evaluating teachers outlined in the TAP Teaching Skills, Knowledge and Responsibilities Performance Standards, otherwise known as the TAP Instructional Rubric. The TAP rubric is a set of clearly defined standards that promote best practices and apply to all content areas. Teachers are well-prepared for their observations during thorough training on the TAP rubric and through TAP's continuous professional growth "cluster group" meetings.
Each teacher is evaluated four to six times a year by multiple evaluators (including principals, assistant principals, master teachers, and sometimes mentor teachers) who are trained and certified by NIET according to these standards. Some of the evaluations are announced, and some are unannounced. All evaluations are followed up with a post-conference session between the observed teacher and the evaluator to discuss specific reinforcements and refinements based on the instructional rubric intended to help the teacher strengthen his/her instructional practice.
Read more about TAP's teacher evaluations by visiting TAP Elements of Success: Instructionally Focused Accountability.
11. What impact has TAP had on student achievement?
Research shows that the most important school-related factor in student achievement is having a high-quality teacher in the classroom. TAP helps educators focus on academics and better teaching techniques that support the school's instructional program — state academic standards, curriculum and testing.
By creating a shared understanding and a common language to discuss effective teaching, TAP enables educators to work together to make measurable improvements in teaching and learning. TAP teachers and schools produce higher student achievement growth than their non-TAP counterparts.
For more details about TAP's achievement results, visit TAP Outcomes.
12. What impact has TAP had on teacher recruitment and retention?
Educators pursue classroom teaching with the intent and motivation to help all students learn, but they often are not provided with the tools and support system to meet those goals. TAP provides ongoing applied professional development sessions for all teachers. These sessions, along with individual coaching, offer frequent opportunities to collaborate and share best practices with colleagues.
Under the TAP system, outstanding teachers can also earn higher salaries and advance professionally, just as in other careers. Further, teachers are provided these opportunities without leaving the classroom, where they are needed most.
Motivated by the opportunities afforded by TAP, we are finding that outstanding educators who teach in upper middle class neighborhoods are moving to schools with low socio-economic student populations.
According to the TAP national survey of teacher attitudes, the level of support for TAP's elements, which include teacher accountability and performance-based compensation, is high and increasing with each additional year of TAP implementation. Additionally, in 2010, 94% of TAP teachers agreed or strongly agreed that TAP has created collegiality within their schools.
For more information about TAP's ability to increase teacher recruitment and retention, visit TAP Outcomes.
13. What has been the involvement of teachers' unions in the districts where TAP is present?
TAP typically requires a vote from the faculty before a school participates. TAP is fortunate that teachers' associations have shown an openness and willingness to work with us. Typically, union leadership is involved from the initial discussion stage throughout implementation.
In large urban centers like Columbus, Ohio; and Minneapolis, Minnesota; the local teachers' unions have been instrumental in bringing TAP to their districts and in TAP's implementation. We encourage schools and districts to invite association leadership to play an active role in the design and implementation of TAP.
14. How is TAP different from “merit-pay" programs tried in the past?
"Merit-pay" commonly refers to programs tried in the 1980s and 90s, many of which were viewed as unfair because of the measures they used to determine additional teacher pay. Some programs rewarded teachers based only on end-of-year test scores, giving an advantage to teachers who worked with students who were already high-achievers. Other programs based awards on a single classroom visit by the principal, which led to accusations of bias and favoritism.
This contrasts starkly with TAP, considered a "performance-pay" system, because it is based on fair, multiple measures of teacher performance. These measures include both student achievement growth analyzed by a value-added model at the individual classroom and school-wide level and multiple classroom evaluations conducted by multiple certified evaluators.